Covid-19 vaccination passports could be available in Northern Ireland from as early as next week.

Northern Ireland’s Department of Health announced the passes could be live by Monday, July 5 – ahead of the previously expected July 19 date.

The Covid passport allows people to prove they’ve had both jabs when travelling abroad.

The passports are planned to go live by next week “providing cyber security checks are cleared successfully”, according to a statement from the NI government.

Northern Ireland’s vaccine passports will be in hard copy when first released, with a digital alternative expected by mid-August.

Dan West, the department’s chief digital information officer, said: “A lot of hard work is ongoing to deliver Northern Ireland’s scheme. Unlike other jurisdictions, we have not had the advantage of a pre-existing health service app. We are therefore building our system from scratch.

“We also want to make sure that rigorous cyber security checks are completed to protect against hackers, reflecting how seriously we take the protection of personal data.”

The hard copy passports will include “counterfeit protection features” to ensure safety around data.

West added that governments and businesses may also decide to use vaccine passports for other circumstances, including domestic events.

“The aim is effectively to have a Covid-19 vaccine passport – internationally recognised proof a person has had both vaccine doses,” West said.

“This will complement the UK’s existing traffic light system for international travel, which can include PCR tests and quarantine rules, depending on the travel location.

“While final decisions have still to be taken on how and when these vaccine certificates will be used, they are expected to make foreign travel easier for people who have had both doses.”

Online Covid-19 passports went live in Wales from June 25.

Covid passports in England

Covid passports have been available in England through the NHS App since 17 May.

The NHS App already allows users to access a range of NHS services on their smartphone or tablet, including vaccination records.

Users can check their vaccination status through the app if permitted by their GP. This applies to all vaccines.

Since the government announced it would be used to access Covid passports more than six million people have downloaded the app.

The government is recommending people register with the NHS App before booking overseas travel.

To use the app you must be registered with a GP in England. The government is recommending people register with the app before booking international travel and at least two weeks before the departure date.

Currently, the Covid-19 passport can only be used once a person has had a full course of vaccinations – that means both jabs.

The NHS App is separate from the NHS Covid-19 app which was designed specifically as a contact-tracing app.

You can find out more about Covid passports and how they work in our explainer here.